Saturday, September 3, 2016

Frenzy: Complex and Weird (Part VIII)

Click here for the previous installment...
Click here for the entire story.

It’s really hard to explain what’s happening when you’re carrying a rabbit dog. If you have a child, then imagine that your child is in danger; and if you don’t have a child, then imagine you do have a child, and that that child is in danger; and if you don’t like children, then imagine that the love of your life is in danger; and if you’re antisocial, then imagine that your most prized possession is in danger; and if you don’t care about anything because you’re a sociopath, then imagine that your own self is in danger—everybody else is. Now imagine that the overprotectiveness you feel for the subject is turned up to eleven. Only then can you possibly understand the psychology behind needing to protect Rabbit Dog, who I have decided to name Crispin. If you play card games then you get why I chose that name. Crispin not only makes you feel like you have to take care of him, but he also makes you feel safe. Even though it’s clear that we’re in danger, and that someone is chasing after us, I know that we can handle it, because we’re together.
I don’t know why, but I also have an instinct to continue on the path towards my finish line. The amusement park offers no further safety than any other location, but I don’t know where else to go, and my plans towards it are really the only thing I can think about other than Crispin. I guess that’s a side effect of his power. He only lets you focus on a single objective, and since I was already going this way, my compulsion defaulted back to it. I run out of the commercial area and run through more neighborhoods. Nall at 67th, Lamar at 63rd, Mission at 59th, Shawnee Mission Parkway. Then I realize a possible benefit of me having to head this way. At 47th and Rainbow Boulevard, there’s a police station attached to the city hall of whatever city I’m in right now. It’s hard to tell in the suburbs. You can drive on the highway for ten or fifteen minutes and pass six or seven towns without even knowing it.
The police, yes, they can help. They won’t know what this thing is, or where it came from, but they’ll know what to do. I walk in through the front doors and approach the reception window. You would think they would want to keep someone there at all times, but no one is waiting to help. “Hello?” I call out. I tilt my lizard brain to listen for a response, but nothing comes. “I was hoping to find some help here. My situation is a little weird.” I need to be careful about the words I say in a place like this. You can’t say ‘bomb’ on an airplane. No one is answering me, and there doesn’t seem to be an intercom, or even a little bell. The waiting area is pretty small, and it doesn’t look like I’m allowed to go anywhere else, but still I try the doors. Nothing. They’re both locked and require some sort of identification sensor. Crispin makes this adorable sharp squeaking sound. A surge of electricity passes between us and flows back and forth. It’s invigorating, and not at all painful. I place my hand over the ID sensor and hear the door unlock. “That might come in handy, my little friend.”
We peek into the hallway like gophers, tentative and cautious. I slowly walk forwards, looking for any sign of life, but find absolutely no one. This place is completely dead, and it’s the most eerie feeling ever. My only saving grace is the comfort Crispin affords me through his fur. As soon as I use Crispin’s electrokinesis to unlock the door to the stairs, I start to hear an alarm, and what sounds like the crashing waves of an ocean. I close the door and the sounds stop instantly. I reopen and hear them again. I close and they disappear. There’s no reason for these walls to be soundproof, so what the hell is going on? What the actual hell is going on in this place at all? I decide to not go upstairs, because whatever is waiting for me up there is more dangerous than anything that might be chasing us.
As soon as I turn around, the scene changes. I mean, it’s like we were standing at the brink of movie sets for two entirely different films. Behind me is still the wall, but ahead of me is a desert. I’m not talking about the dirty deserts of southwest United States. This is is an ultra-sandy African, Middle Eastern dune desert. I can feel the heat on my skin, and sharp pangs as wind forces individual sand particles to hit me in the face. Scared but curious, I step forward. Just before my shoe can touch the sand, the scene resets and sends me to the exterior of the police station I was just in. We just teleported twice, and Crispin doesn’t seem bothered by it. For the first time ever, he makes a point of looking up at me, and he’s just giving me this look like this is a normal thing. For me, I’m amazed and inspired by having seen time being altered for the first time, but for him, it’s Tuesday.
Still, I know that going back into the empty police station is an entirely bad idea. There is no help there, and we have to move on. We don’t get far, though. Just on the other side of the street are highrise apartments. I remember when these were first being built around 2016. They were advertised as luxury apartments, but I guess through a series of economic events and political shifting, they were converted into more affordable housing. The sun kept going up and down, and this is Tagger gang territory now. Crispin informs me though his feelings that we can find temporary shelter there, so I use my new superpower and step in.
We find ourselves in a lobby area. To my left are a set of those boxes where people used to leave pieces of dead trees to communicate with each other, I guess because email servers were down? A beautiful mural has been painted on the back wall depicting what must be the recent weather problems. The Taggers work fast. It’s only then that I realize that the weather has been fine today. I suppose the council’s whole problem with the weather is that they’re unable to predict what it’s going to do, so it was just safest from their perspective to disqualify the young ones. It’s ironic that this might be some of the best weather we’ve ever had for a Frenzy. I forget my thoughts as a group of people step into view from different places, as if they had rehearsed their dramatic entrance.
Their current leader, who goes by the name of Freeley, approaches me. “What are you two doing here?”
I look behind me, wondering if Keilix or even Thompson followed me here, but I’m alone. Is he casually referring to Crispin as if he weren’t a magical beast no one’s ever seen before? “I seek Sanctuary.”
Everyone laughs, but stops the instant Freeley gestures that it’s over. “What are you doing with him?”
“I’m protecting him.”
“Where did you find him?”
“My friend found him. We’re in Frenzy. We ran into each other in Old Overland Park and she handed him off to me so she could continue on with the race.”
Freeley seems mildly surprised by this. “She was able to give him up.” Then he finished, “but you’re not, are you?”
“I’m sorry?”
“You have an unbreakable bond with him, don’t you? You couldn’t let go of him if you tried.”
“How did you know?”
It’s happened before. He looks to the stairs behind him. “Krakken?”
The dude who was apparently Krakken walks down and comes forward. He regards Crispin with a sense of familiarity, affection, but no drive to protect him.
“Krakken, tell the man what happened.”
Krakken starts into his story, “I found Raggy huddled behind a trashcan two autumns ago while I was painting my Tagger audition downtown.”
“His name is Raggy?” I ask.
“That’s what I named him. I think everyone calls him something different.”
“What is he?”
“I don’t know,” Krakken answers. “I only had this need to carry him to a rabbit warren I somehow knew was in a forest outside the metro. The rabbits seemed neutral about him being there, but he seemed happy. I set him down and left, never to see him again.”
“Are we safe here?” I ask.
“Not really,” Freeley says.
“Well...do you know what’s going on with the police station? It was weird.”
“Weird how?” Freeley presses.
“It’s just...well, no one was there,” I decide to say, not wanting to make myself sound like a crazy person, talking about time travel or whatever.
“There’s something happening on the other side of the metro,” Freeley explains. “It has something to do with your little race. The police must have called in reinforcements from this station.”
“What exactly is happening? Do you guys have a Frenzy feed?”
“Yeah, but it’s weird. The cameras are going haywire, I guess. Social media is blowing up with complaints from people who actually paid to watch that garbage.”
“We should probably stay away from that, then.” I say.
“That’s what I would recommend,” Krakken agrees.
“Unfortunately, the only people who might be able to help you are the Beasts, but their territory is on the other side of the commotion.”
“Oh, that’s right! Why did I not think of them? The Beasts! Of course they would help us. Do you think you could safely drive us down there?”
“None of my people is going anywhere near that race. I’m sorry,” Freeley apologizes genuinely, but firmly. “Your best bet is probably with the Tracers. I can call Slipstream for you.”
“Would you? Do you know her?”
“Yeah, we’re cool,” Freeley says. Then she turns away to make an intergang call.
“Hey, what’s going on with the weather?” A particularly young Tagger has his head against the glass, and is looking upwards.
“What are you talking about?” I ask in return. “The weather’s fine.”
“Exactly,” he replies. “It’s been total shit all day.” He starts walking towards us, almost threateningly. “In fact...it only got better once you arrived.”
I ever so slightly step backwards. “Uh...isn’t that a good thing.”
“It’s a weird thing,” the guy counters.
“Hold on,” Freeley says into the phone. “Hey, what’s up?”
“This animal has something to do with the weather,” a woman says.
“Krakken, is that possible?” Freeley asks.
“I ain’t never heard of it. Didn’t happen to me.”
Freeley goes back to her phone. “Slip, I’m gonna call ya back.”
The one who first noticed the weather is drawing nearer, and I’m walking backwards in concert with him. “Look, I don’t what no trouble.”
“We have to study that thing.” Others are starting to look more interested in investigating.
“Oh, we shouldn’t do that,” Krakken disagrees. Crispin’s effect on him will probably never completely wear off, but it isn’t nearly as strong as I wish it were.
Yet another Tagger comes out of nowhere and steals Crispin from my grasp. He’s wearing these long black gloves of unknown material. The rest of his clothes look custom made as well, as if they served some kind of purpose. He’s also wearing a funny-looking hat. “Back off,” he orders the crowd.
“Noobo, what the hell are you doing?”
“Stop calling me that!” glove-guy yells. “I don’t wanna be initiated in your stupid gang.”
“Who are you?” Freeley asks with a greater amount of authority than before.
“I just want the animal,” Noobo, or whatever his real name was, answers.
“You infiltrated my gang?” Freeley asks. “You heard about Krakken’s adventure, and signed up. Who do you work for?”
“That’s none of your business.” And then Noobo darts out the door. I see him retrieving a comms device from his pocket.
“Will you help?” I ask the rest of the gang, but mostly Freeley.
“I’m not putting my people in danger.”
“Boss?” Krakken asks.
Freeley nods. “As you wish.”
“Try to keep up,” I say to Krakken. I put on my game face and spin into my bull stance. Then I start running once more. Click here for the next installment...

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